Room of the Living Dead

It's 4:25 a.m. when the nightlife vampires stir. The time between late night and sunrise is no place for the faint of party. The weak and weary have already retired their dancing shoes. Only the hard-core remain clubbing.

The downtown traffic on NE Eleventh Street thickens. Those not willing to submit to last call line one-way streets with luxury cars and taxis. These creatures of the night prepare to embark on their mission of dancing till dawn and beyond.

Waiting outside the Living Room, like wolves they claw at Shannon, the petite doorwoman fending off the eager and ever-building crowd. Shannon is pleasantly forgiving of those so hungry that they have forgotten standard politesse. Her brunette ponytail is pulled back just right, signaling that she is anchored in and ready to take on all who have come to get past the gates. Those who know her howl her name.

"Shannon! Hey Shannon, I was here last week?"

Soon those who have just learned her name take up the cry.

Certainly Shannon must remember and recognize the hundreds of sunglass-covered faces she sees each night. Over there with the lollipop and small bottle of Evian is what's his name from that place. And oh yeah, there is the other girl in the black outfit who knows the guy who is friends with the owner from the new place over there. It starts to sound like a choir of too cool people attempting to outcool each other for admission. But Shannon holds steady like a veteran of the night who has heard this song played in heavy rotation.

Street hustlers charge for parking in public spaces at every available corner. Hot dog merchants peddle pork to those in need of food to soak up the night's alcohol consumption. Group after group rushes up to hear security recite over and over the words: "The line is back there, people."

Those who attend after hours tend to be club owners, promoters, or staff looking for a place to unwind after their own hard night's work. Then of course there are the nightlife nomads desperate to dance off a couple rolls or ironically enough relax to hard-driving music with the help of a few Xanax or any number of other laboratory fun pills.

The anxiety rises while they wait. Only the strong or well-connected can survive. Hasty admission is granted only to those with "juice" in this world, so cruel to novices. You'd better not enter without a pass go nod from one of the elite hipsters who thrive on the anxious energy.

Suddenly the crowd grows unmanageable and surges toward the entrance. They can wait no longer to feast on the throbbing beats. There is a hunger yearning to be fed.

Time for the torches. Hulking security wrestles the wild pack into retreat. But one stray insists on admittance. He is dealt with quickly and convincingly. Ready to assist the hired security, ever-present City of Miami police thwart the man's plans of disruption. One of the intolerant officers wastes no time in subduing this partier gone wild. Like a trained animal handler he returns the scamp to tranquility. The overzealous rogue is whisked across the street and detained briefly. Level heads prevail. No harm. No foul. The wanton man is released, but the embarrassment has made him and his party decide that the night is over all too soon. Dusting off his rayon shirt, he concedes that there is no sense in trying to save face. The Living Room is not for him this early morning, so he accepts defeat and rides off into the new day.

Witnessing such behavior while waiting among the impatient and ill-mannered gives new meaning to the term after hours: the length of time you must spend being battered, shoved, stepped on, and pushed before you will finally be granted entrance. Fortunately for Clubbed, a rescue team rides up in the form of Monica, one of the promoters for crobar's Monday-night party, Back Door Bamby.

"I'm waiting for my friend Michael. We should get right in without a problem," she promises.

As Clubbed and new friend Monica keep a watchful eye for this angel, a small entourage of chicly dressed men and women arrives. This band of ultra-hipsters stands aloof from the swarm bickering to get in. Leading the group is the mythical Michael, who comes to take us away from the madness in the streets.

Our newly formed union slinks into the lair, past velvet colored walls and Middle Eastern decor that give the illusion of a time and place far removed from the poorest city in the United States. Flashing strobe lights make it difficult to navigate in what feels like a labyrinth. Only the pulse of multicolored lights interrupts the darkness.

"I am a slave to the beat," shrieks the songstress on vinyl being jockeyed by DJ Ivano Bellini. Only a slave could be commanded by high-energy music in these wee hours. Dancing has to be instinctual and the body must be surrendered to the DJ to use as he pleases. Bellini beckons and his vassals move faster, harder. All around bodies sway and flail. As the beat quickens, so too do the bodies captivated by its trance.

Clubbed's newfound buddies stick close to the bar and close to each other. Flashing lights throw fleeting silhouettes of the faceless and nameless. From time to time a smile can be distinguished in the sea of waving hands. But it does not matter. Bodies begin to meld, losing themselves to the ritual of rhythm.

Smoke machines fill the air. A statue of Buddha watches over the swarm of sweaty zombies. At 6:45 a.m. there are still people lined up to get in. Only the truly die-hard dancers -- or extremely chemically altered -- can move at this hour. Being neither, Clubbed decides that it is time to retire for the evening -- uh, for the day.